Archives for category: January


Ardea herodias

Family:  Ardeidae

Great blue herons can be seen throughout Tate’s Hell, in the rivers, creeks and ditches along the roads that crisscross the forest.   These are large, elegant birds with blue-gray backs, black sides and gray and white striped bellies.  The heron’s has a white face, cap and black crest on its head.  The juvenile is duller color and without a crest.  White and intermediate phases occur in Florida.  Great Blues are easily recognized in flight by 6-foot wind span and neck folded into an “S”.

Great blues can be found anywhere in the continental US and southern portions of Canada.   Though they are migratory birds, they can be seen in Florida throughout the year.  Their preferred habitats include lakes, ponds, rivers and marshes.  They lay two to seven pale blue or blue green eggs on a shallow platform of sticks lined with finer material, usually in a tree, but sometimes on the ground or concealed in a reed bed.  They often nest in colonies.  The eggs incubate from 25 to 30 days and both adults share in the sitting.  The average life span is 15 years.

They are carnivorous and eat fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, shrimps, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers and other aquatic insects.  They forage while wading, of belly deep, impaling prey with their sharp bills.  They are active day and night.

The great blue heron in Womack Creek is particularly skittish and therefore we have not been able to get closer to the bird, unlike other places where it is fairly easy to get close enough to great blues while paddling.  All photographs on this blog are all taken on Womack Creek so until we are able to get closer to the bird(s), this photo will have to suffice.

Most of the information is from iBird PRO, a great I-touch application for bird ID.



May 19, 2017



Blossom stems taken April 11, 2014 on a living oak tree.












Epidendrum magnoliae Muhl var. magnoliae

Fort/herb, perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:  January, February, green

Endangered and threatened species: Florida

Location:  Removed to prevent predation by collectors.

This is the only epiphyte orchid to grow in North Florida.  It prefers dead oak trees.  A fellow paddler saw some blooming on the Wakulla River in January 2013 and saw plants on  Econfina Creek (2013).  Please see, but don’t touch or take.  This orchid is on the endangered and threatened list for Florida.

On the far western side of Tate’s Hell on Graham Creek  two healthy stands of Green Fly orchids were seen, one on a growing cypress tree, the other on a dead cypress tree.  Dead bloom buds, indicate that it had bloomed earlier this year.  Fort Gadsden creek, another tributary of the Apalachicola River, also has healthy stands of these orchids throughout one of its branches.


February 9, 2014 red maples all in bloom

P1010072Acer rubrum


Native:  L48, Canada

Blooming:  January, February, red

Location:  N30 00.048′ W084 00.048′ (.9RL), N30 00.050’W084 33.021′ (1RR). N 30 00.416’W084 33.744′(2.85RL)

One of the earliest signs of springs, this plant is polygamo-dioecious, either entirely male, entirely female, or both male and female.  So you will see some trees with only red leaves in the spring, and others with winged seed, called samara, and others with both.  The flowers are so tiny one must photograph them before the tiny samara have formed, which we were unable to do this spring.

Early settlers used extract from the bark for ink and also for cinnamon/black and black dyes.

Native Americans used the plant extensively.  Medicinally it was used for menstrual cramps, sore eyes, hives, dysentery,measles and in a complex recipe as a blood purifier.  The Seminoles use it also for “ballgame sickness”, back and limb pains and hemorrhoids.  Nonmedicinal uses were as sweeteners and the bark pounded into a meal by the Iroquois. The wood was made into spoons by Seminoles, arrowheads and ox yokes.   Other tribes used this species to make furnitues, basketry and bowls.



Alnus serrulata

Shrub, perennial

Native: L 48, CAN

Blooming:  January, white, yellow

Catkins of the alder look similar that to that of the American hornbeam (Carpinus carolianana Walter).   In early January 2013, these alder catkins were blooming and the American hornbeam branches were still barren.   The seeds of the alder also resembles miniature pine-cones.  The alder is a nitrogen fixing shrub.  It is used for stream bank stabilization.

The hazel alder bark has  anti-inflammatory salicin which was used by native Americans as an antiseptic to disinfect cuts.  Its medicinal uses were extensive:  as an analgesic, blood purifier, cathartic, cough medicine,  emtic and purgative, for eyes, for biliousness and jaundice,  for heart trouble, piles, kidneys, thrash, toothaches, to clear milky urine. The inner bark of the alder was also mixed with chokeberry and red osier dogwood into a tobacco mix(kinnikinnick) and added to bearberry leaf for improved flavor.

The plant is host to the woolly alder aphid (Prociphilus tesselatus) on which the adult uncommon harvester butterfly larvae (Feniseca tarquinius)  feed.  The uncommon harvester is the only carnivorous butterfly caterpillar in the US.

Location:  N30 387   W084 3.572′ (2.0 RL) , N 30 055 W o84 33.215′ (1.2RL) , N30 327 W084 33.608′ (1.93RR)


Black Highbush Blueberry

Vaccinium corymbosum
Shrub, Perennial
Blooming: January, February, March, white

Food source for over 20 species of birds, including:  wild turkey, mourning dove, ruby-throated hummingbirds, northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, black capped chickadee, American robin, cedar waxwing, white throated sparrow.  Larval host brown elfin, striped hairstreak butterflies and huckleberry sphinx, major datana and saddleback caterpillar moths.  You might be able to find a few left to taste, but hardly enough to make a pie.
Location: N30 00.094′ W084 33.345′ (1.2RL), N30 00.361′ W084 33.514′ (2.1RL)